Located in the back of Weldon Library’s main floor, the Pride Library is a space on campus for students, queer or otherwise, who are looking for a safe space.
As the only library of its kind at a Canadian university, this unique room hosts a variety of queer literature including fiction, non-fiction and graphica. Started in 1997 by comparative literature associate professor James Miller, the library has been building its varied collection ever since.
“It initially started when Dr. Miller was studying some queer studies courses,” says Rebecca Kasperavicius, a master’s student in library and information science and Pride Library volunteer. “He went to go get some literature from the library but they didn't have those resources, so he started building his own collection.”
Material located on the shelves is open to circulation for the public and is registered with Weldon’s call number system. A majority of this literature comes from public donation, providing a wide array of subjects within queer topics.
Some of the donated material is rare, or simply could not be restored if it were damaged or lost. This literature is kept encased at the back of the Pride Library and can be accessed in-house with permission and assistance.
“The back material was a local gentleman’s personal collection of his own queer library,” explains Kasperavicius. “It’s such a unique thing to have someone’s complete collection. It’s a document of what they were interested in and what they valued.”
This material is overseen by the volunteers who work the front desk and manage various projects within the space. With a group of over 50 volunteers and a large waiting list, there is a clear need to contribute to such a unique location.
While the Pride Library provides many academic resources, they are open to much more than that.
Pride Library volunteer coordinator Svitlana Maluzynsky, a master’s student in library and information science, says the space also functions as a safe space for patrons.
“We are sealed off, which is nice if someone needs a safe space or just a space away from all the commotion of campus,” says Maluzynsky. “You don't need to be queer to come and you don't need to have a specific reason for being there.”
Whether a patron wants to do personal research, get connected with support or just needs a space for safe dialogue, the Pride Library offers all these things.
Fifth-year psychology and sexuality studies student Meghan Mann would definitely agree. She has used the library space for a variety of reasons.
“I've come in the past to browse through the 'zines and the archives, to check out queer literature, to hang out or do homework with friends or solo reading,” says Mann. “It’s a nice place to exist and catch up with friends or readings free of judgement.”
This objective space is more than just an academic setting — it’s a place of history and meaning.
“I can let my guard down, I can exist unapologetically, I can enter this space and see years of queer rebellion, queer revolution and queer existence,” says Mann.
Mann acknowledges the Pride Library as a space of both education and as one of the only spaces in which she feels completely at ease with herself on Western’s campus.
Maluzynsky expresses a desire to have more people engaged from the campus community, encouraging the Pride Library as a space for those of all needs and interests. While she would love for the Pride Library to expand, space poses a major concern.
“We’re so donation-focused and we don't have a budget for purchasing materials, so that limits us,” Maluzynsky says. “If we had more space and more money to purchase materials, we could fill the space with the whole rainbow of LGBTQ represented in the space.”
The Pride Library is funded by grants through the University, which are applied for whenever projects arise. This lack of steady funding prevents endeavours like seeking a larger space. Despite this, the library is making do with what they have.
“We’re happy the University gives us this space so we can do our thing,” says Maluzynsky. “It’s valuable experience for our volunteers and even more important for the community — we can never have enough safe spaces on campus.”